In almost all worlds in this vast Universe, or more accurately, this Multiverse, liquid of any form is a rare commodity. On the planet, Myopeda, for example, liquid methane floats about in droplets too tiny to see with the naked eye, or even with optics properly clothed. Such is the case on many planetary bodies, making the Multiverse, as a whole, considerably drier than a stock broker’s afternoon martini.
In a spiral galaxy in the nether regions of the galactic space-time bubble containing the only known self-reflexive life forms, at least the only one reflected upon by those life-forms themselves, a planetary system whirls slowly through the, mostly, emptiness of interstellar space. Uncountable solid bodies, ranging in size from dust motes to incipient stars, parade around the central sun in a grand whirling dance of imperceptible velocity relative to the immovable but constantly moving background star field.
One planet and one moon in this remarkable system violate the above general rule of relative humidity and afternoon cocktails in two startlingly different ways. The moon, orbiting high above a gloriously beribboned gas giant, tightly holds it’s precious liquid, largely a seething mixture of dihydrogen monoxide and methane, beneath a permanent crust solidified in the unimaginably frigid temperatures, or lack thereof, of deep space.
The other body, the third planet from the sun, not counting it’s dry planet-like companion held in a wobbly coterminous orbit, irresponsibly keeps its liquid out in plain sight, in the full ravages of solar radiation and cosmic rays. This has gone on for some time, much to the consternation of the other planetary bodies, so long excluded from the cosmic liquidity competition.
In the uncountable millennia since its whirling formation from primal cosmic dust, this third planet, this Earth, has managed to develop a delicate equilibrium state among temperature, atmospheric pressure, gravity, biological activity, and only very lately, the unrelenting busyness of the aforementioned self-reflexive life-forms. Though, if truth be told, their most recent activities have begun to perturb this trembling balance in ways that, had the other planetary bodies had eyes to see, clothed or unclothed, they would have blinked them rapidly in disapproval.
Although more than 70% of The Earth’s surface is covered with liquid dihydrogen monoxide, or water as the locals call it, certain areas of the planet are quite deficient in this precious liquid. These so-called deserts, despite their singular lack of such an essential constituent, nevertheless support a surprising diversity of life, self-reflexive and otherwise. The planetary surface, the actual land, as it were, the atmosphere above, the soil beneath, even isolated channels and local accumulations of water, called lakes or ponds, teem with an abundance of living organisms, almost all of which exist in an atmosphere dominated by toxic levels of oxygen, generally considered a bad neighborhood in the more desirable areas of the Multiverse.
Along one of these water channels large enough to be recognized as a river, flowing from central mountains to the equatorial sea, self-reflexive life forms existed sporadically over the past 10,000 local years. The earliest inhabitants, largely naked bipeds, despite their primitive development of self-reflection, from the perspective of the present inhabitants, at least, were nonetheless surprisingly well adjusted to their local environment. They lived in modest dwellings, formed of local materials, consumed the local flora and fauna in moderation, traded widely with others of their kind in far flung regions quite different from their own and generally led the naked biped, indifferently self-reflexive, oxygen consuming version of The Good Earth Life.
The situation changed quite radically during the last 4% of this occupation, when a new breed of bipeds appeared, almost entirely clothed almost all of the time, armed with fearsome weapons and the willingness, nay eagerness, to use them. They quickly laid waste to the general neighborhood round about, including the neighbors, and established themselves as the pre-eminent bipeds in the region.
These newcomers also exhibited a most peculiar characteristic. They insisted, often at the point of arms, that their particular brand of self-reflection was the only one that they and the local bipeds should be allowed to pursue, despite the total lack of any credible evidence to support their contention. Even though the local bipeds had had their own self-reflection well and truly worked out for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the newcomers held the field, largely because they killed or drove off any of the locals who refused to agree.
It is to this region we descend from the comfortable star-studded blackness of interplanetary space, through the corrosive oxy-nitrogenous atmosphere, past drifting colonies of vaporous water clouds, floating down toward the intricately folded, volcanically crenellated and aquatically weathered landscape, of Earth, North America, United States, New Mexico; the desert: home to horned-toads, road runners, crows and eagles, lizards, kissing bugs, cockroaches and miller moths; coyotes, wild horses, elk and deer; piñon pine and Ponderosa, agavé and century plants, and of late, in excess, in preponderance, in contradiction to all life that came before: Homo sapiens, the scourge of The Earth, the cancer on the face of the planet, the denial of entropy, bent on the destruction of all Things Good and True.
Except for a few, gathering here from their corners of what was once known as Turtle Island…